Love Thy Self(ie)
The day I began to start being aware of my appearance, I feel like my anxiety increased ten fold, and hasn’t stopped since. And I’m sure every woman feels that way. In middle school I discovered all the appearance enhancing techniques; eyeliner, hairspray, hair straightener and so on. I remember being in 6th grade and my best friend putting eyeliner on me for the first time as my eyes kept twitching uncontrollably. In 7th grade I straightened my hair every single day for a year, because I thought my thick, wavy hair was ugly. Some of the alterations we make to ourselves can be good, liberating even. But there is a fine line between filtering your appearance for your own well being and doing it to please a societal construct. I remember struggling to please everyone with my appearance; making sure I looked different enough, but also cool enough to fit in with everyone else, while still fulfilling society’s standards of beauty.
I remember around the emergence of MySpace, the selfie culture slowly began. And so did the judgement surrounding it. I remember girls using captions on their photos like “just felt like posting a pic because I was bored lol” or “I’m so ugly ha!”. I never looked deeply into this until I realized the ugly truth: we as girls felt the need to justify doing anything that may not be pleasing a man. I remember learning about the popular editing system called PicNik and using it to edit my photos to make myself feel and look cool. I remember feeling good, also feeling guilty for feeling good. Because I heard boys and girls making silent judgement about photos that were “over-edited”.
Only towards my last year of high school did I finally not care. Yes, I had been sucked into the obsession with selfie culture, but I wasn’t about to apologize for it to anyone else. It’s all part of this confusing judgement limbo that women get thrown into every day. A constant struggle between looking “too natural” versus “too fake”, or “too presentable” versus “too slutty”. This is a vicious cycle that ultimately makes women edit their appearance — and even personality — even more. I believe there needs to be something that is just for us, women, no one else. However, I have a theory that ultimately the emergence of “selfie” culture is a good thing, and has helped women finally feel a different kind of appreciation for their beauty. A kind of appreciation can be just for themselves.
It took me forever to know who I was but with confidence, good company and just a little bit of vanity, I became comfortable in my own skin. We filter ourselves every day, but I think social media and technology has created a whole new definition to that word. With the eruption of instagram and selfies, it has given an opportunity for a new revolution of self love and beauty enhancement in our world. The important part is making sure there is a balance kept — both in the way we “edit” ourselves and the way we see ourselves.
I personally never understood the “backlash” against selfies, anyway. In the grand scheme of things, I always saw it as another manifestation of girl on girl hate, or patriarchal judgement. It made me think, aren’t women allowed to feel comfortable and pretty in their own skin simply because they want? Can’t they post a picture of themselves without right away being accused of being too vain, too attention seeking, and of course; too filtered? It’s the same way with makeup, or as I would cleverly call it; our “real life” instagram filters. There have always been mixed reactions towards girls about the amount of makeup they wear, or to what extent they enhance their appearance. Selfie culture, along with things such as makeup are always used as a way for men to somehow complain that women aren’t showing their “true selves”. Saying that we use filters both on pictures and one our faces to hide our natural state. But the truth is, it’s our society that is filtering out who we really are. Women go through a different filter every single day, where they struggle to decide how they should act, look or feel in order to please the constructs put in our society. It is especially hard for many woman to ever be their true selves, when they are surrounded by judgement and expectations every minute of their lives.
Now I’m in college and I feel more liberated every day. Because I’ve learned to not only accept myself without the makeup, or the instagram filters, but to allow myself to indulge in those enhancements as well. It’s helped seeing other girls on social media or in person, finally lifting each other up and encouraging ourselves show off a bit instead of accusing each other of being too “braggy”. I don’t like to think of makeup or editing filters as a way that is “stifling” our beauty. I like to see it as a way we are exploring it, re-creating it and evolving it. I think there’s no problem filtering out impurities out of your appearance, if it makes you feel good and makes you happy. What I don’t like is when we as women are forced to adjust or appearance based on what society tells us and what is deemed as. Whether the criticisms around us are saying we look “too fake” or not “perfect enough”, I say don’t listen to either. We are the ones in control of our own filters, and our own image.
So take your selfies and add your filters. Empower yourself through a picture of yourself on Instagram, there’s nothing wrong with that. Either way, we all shine in our own way, no matter what beauty standards are layered over us each and every day. We have a right to filter ourselves and edit ourselves as much as we want. My only challenge is that when we do it, we do it for ourselves. Because that will feel that much more liberation in the long run.